The suspense market is so glutted right now that is easy to find amazing books to fill your shelves. It is equally easy to find books which sound intriguing but wind up being deeply disappointing. To help you separate the gold from the dross, Shannon and I have compiled a Best Of List sure to be of use to even the most finicky of readers.
Best Price Point Novel
Maggie: No doubt about it, suspense is a hot market right now and publishers are taking advantage of that by putting some of these books in a high price range – many of my favorites for the year ranged from $12.00 to $15.00 in Kindle. I’m glad some of my favorite authors continue to publish at a slightly lower cost. Easily my favorite books in the lower price range were Lisa Clark O’Neill’s Shiver, which costs just $4.99, The Thinnest Air by Minka Kent for $5.99 and Loreth Anne White’s The Girl in the Moss which is $5.99. Both Shiver and The Girl in the Moss are part of a series, but you don’t have to have read the previous books to thoroughly enjoy the above.
Shannon: I completely agree with you about The Girl In the Moss. I actually loved that entire trilogy, but the third one was my absolute favorite. C.J. Cooke’s I Know My Name is another fantastic thriller that won’t break the bank. It sells for $7.99.
Best Gothic Novel
Maggie: When looking over the mysteries I read in 2018, I was surprised to see that I read several books that I would consider gothics. The English Wife by Lauren Willig had a definite gothic feel to it. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware was assuredly a gothic and much to my surprise, A Forgotten Place by Charles Todd was as well. That is not the usual style for the author, but it really, really worked in that novel. Simone St. James is the queen of gothics in my opinion and her latest novel, The Broken Girls, was good if not spectacular. Of those books, my favorite was the Todd, although I’m not sure that could be enjoyed by someone who hasn’t read the rest of the series. My favorite standalones were The Death of Mrs. Westaway and The English Wife.
Shannon: I read a lot of gothic novels when I was in high school and early college, but I don’t find myself picking them up nearly as often these days. Having said that, I loved everything about The Death of Mrs. Westaway, which is often compared to the classic Rebecca. Rachel Rhys’s Fatal Inheritance had a decidedly gothic feel to it as well. Reading and loving these two makes me want to seek out more gothic mysteries in 2019.
Best Detective Story
Maggie: There were two novels I thought were absolutely excellent in this sub-genre. The best was Look for Me by Lisa Gardner. The tale of a missing teen and the extraordinary lengths D.D. Warren and a friend have to go through to find her, Look for Me is an absolute page turner. Jacqueline Winspear’s To Die but Once is a WWII historical mystery involving another missing teen and a group of people willing to profit from the ongoing horror of the war. It was a wonderful, engrossing read.
Shannon: I’m a huge fan of Angela Marsons’ D.I. Kim Stone series, and the eighth installment entitled Dying Truth is one of the best. It’s a difficult read, but I absolutely could not put it down. It’s not a book you can enjoy as a standalone though, so do pick up Silent Scream if you haven’t already. Force of Nature by Jane Harper was another one that really sucked me in. I loved the Australian setting, and the brilliantly flawed lead detective who would not allow himself to rest until he uncovered the grizzly truth.
Maggie: Lisa Jewell delivered big twists for me in both her novels, Then She was Gone and Watching You. Ms. Jewell is a fantastic writer and neither of these novels are to be missed. My runner up for this position is J.T. Ellison’s Tear Me Apart. Just when I thought that villain couldn’t get any more evil, they surprised me. In the end, I didn’t even truly believe the sad back story. I wouldn’t have been stunned to find they had lied about that, too.
Shannon: Tear Me Apart is hands down my favorite thriller of 2018, followed closely by Alice Feeny’s Sometimes I Lie. Both contained mind-blowing twists. I read a ton of thrillers, so it takes a lot to take me completely by surprise, but both of these managed to do that. I also have to give credit to Mary Kubica’s When the Lights Go Out, as the ending was something I was not expecting at all.
Maggie: I was not expecting the ending of When the Lights Go Out either. I’ve seen that particular writing affectation used before but Kubica did an excellent job of really making that trope work in this novel. Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen used an unusual style/trope also, to create an added layer of intrigue to their novel The Wife Between Us. I loved that novel. Under My Skin by Lisa Unger used the trope du jour of 2018 by giving the heroine an addiction to deal with.
Shannon: Authors are trying hard to find ways to set their thrillers apart from the crowd, and some of them have found really clever ways to do that. My personal favorite is Emily Elgar’s If You Knew Her which takes place largely in a hospital ward.
Best Romantic Suspense
Maggie: I read a lot of good romances and some great mysteries but romantic suspense felt scarce on the ground to me this year. Jayne Anne Krentz’s Promise Not to Tell was easily the best of the few I read. A charming love story, great characters and interesting mystery made this a top read for me.
Shannon: I actually read quite a bit of great romantic suspense this year. Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts is at the top of my list. The killer was incredibly dynamic, and the romance made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I also found myself quite fond of Liar, Liar by Lisa Jackson, although some readers may find the romance might be a little lacking. I was completely taken by surprise by J.R. Ward’s first romantic suspense novel. It’s called Consumed, and it’s every bit as fantastic as the paranormal romances that have made her famous, but in a totally different way of course. I also have to mention Jennifer Hillier’s Jar of Hearts. It was my first book by this author, but I bought her entire back list as soon as I finished this one. Both the romance and the suspense were phenomenal.
Favorites Not Listed Above
Maggie: I recommend all those listed above, and other favorites I would still strongly urge readers to pick up are Our House by Louise Candlish and Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin. These two novels are easily my favorite suspense books of 2018. I also loved Stiletto Justice by Camryn King for its excellent examination of social justice issues.
Shannon: I loved so many mysteries and thrillers this year, but I’ll do my best to narrow the list down. Rena Olsen’s With You Always chilled me to the bone, as did Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall. Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her is very much worth reading, but I’ll freely admit that it’s not quite as stellar as 2017’s The Good Daughter. No list would be complete without mentioning Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent. I had no idea what to expect when I first picked this one up, and it was an extremely wild ride.
So those are mine and Shannon’s favorites for last year. What were YOUR favorite suspense/mystery novels of 2018?
~ Maggie Boyd
Titles are linked to AAR reviews where they exist; purchase links can be found there.
I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.